Study: Fewer seniors reaching Medicare 'doughnut hole'

Fewer people are falling into the Medicare "doughnut hole," according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The report found that 19 percent of Medicare beneficiaries reached the coverage gap in 2009, compared with 26 percent in 2007. Wider availability of generic drugs likely contributed to the decline, Kaiser said.

The healthcare reform law gradually closes the "doughnut hole" — a coverage gap in which seniors must pay the full cost of their prescription drugs. Drugmakers agreed to offer a 50 percent discount on brand-name products beginning this year, and the doughnut hole will continue to shrink until 2020.

Although the 50 percent discount was not in place while the Kaiser study was taking place, the report says it has successfully reduced costs for seniors who find themselves in the doughnut hole.

Most Medicare drug plans do not offer additional coverage inside the doughnut hole, the study found. Of those that do, most only provide coverage for generics.